didn't think the cartoons were particularly good. They also seemed to be published out of a desire to offend Muslims. The editors, and many defenders of the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, claim otherwise, saying that they needed to prove there was a climate of fear in Denmark generated by Muslims. So they offended Muslims, and effectively proved, at the least, that there were Muslims eager to generate a climate of fear.
But the issue of "offense" is a distraction too. Let's assume that the publication of the cartoons was motivated entirely by a desire to offend Muslims ? or at least some Muslims. How does that change the way we should view events now? If I needlessly offend my neighbor, shame on me. If, in response, he burns down my house and threatens to murder my entire family, who cares what I said in the first place? There has been a call for a worldwide Islamic boycott of Danish products because of what an independent newspaper did in a free society. (The boycott shouldn't hurt sales of Danish hams, thank goodness.)
Overreactions are usually about something bigger. The whole point of the "last straw" metaphor is that small things can set off disproportionate reactions. One Muslim protestor in Britain held up a sign saying "Freedom Go To Hell!" Do we really think that a handful of cartoons in Denmark transformed him from a Jeffersonian democrat into a jihadi? Was the holder of the sign "Behead Those Who Insult Islam" a pacifist until recently?
Maybe, just maybe, these guys brought some issues to the table long before they ever heard of these cartoons.